Morose Tales From The Left Coast

Sky King

Where have I heard this before? It sounds familiar, yet at the same time it is new. Sky King's Morose Tales From The Left Coast is not one of those albums you have to listen to 10 times for it to hit and stick. Right at track one - "Poor House" - I knew that I would be in no hurry to enjoy this CD. I was glued. Sky King is, aside from additional studio musicians, features Walter Morosko on lead vocals and guitar, Larry "Fuzzy" Knight (of Spirit) on bass, and Garth Farkas on rhythm guitar. Lee Thornberg and Jimmy "Z" hammer out passionate notes on the trumpet and sax, respectively. It's an orchestra sound without all the baggage.

The entire album sounds like a "best of," but this is their debut release! I gave it no less than 15 listenings in the house, the office, car, walking. I haven't been this impressed with new music in a long time. To the newcomer, my review style isn't focused upon interpreting what each song means inasmuch as assessing the collective talent of the artists. These guys are the real deal. These guys are Artists.

"Poor House" delivers very gritty and grinding vocals. If the rest of the disc continued revealing Morosko's passionate vocals, the rest of this review would have been easy. I was wrong. There are so many elements this band introduces that to share the accolades seems only fitting. "Hollywood" and "Can't See Nothing Good" both have a Robert Cray element. I admit "Can't See Nothing Good" is my favorite track on the disc. What I'm hearing sounds fresh, yet at the same time it sounds so familiar. That's where Sky King nails it: Creating fresh material employing elements people are accustomed to hearing. What I found most interesting as I listened for the umpteenth time is how the band authors lyrics that are not only thought-provoking, but also paint terrific pictures in Technicolor. Think smoky underground club... the sound... they are the band.

The trumpet on "Oxnard/Cahuenga" kills! I imagine these guys putting on a show analogous to Bruno Mars-meets-the-Blues-Brothers-meets-Sky-King. Morosko was right at home with the lead efforts - very fluid, inspiring and right on the money. This should be a radio hit. Twenty seconds into "Blue Skies" had me thinking Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Neil Young. I'll be honest with the reader: Never have I heard a CD that so resonated, that seemed to draw upon enlightening topics and ideas, and compared it to music legends. Sky King has an all-theirs unique sound that draws in the listener with reminiscence pokes. I'm full of holes.

"Waitin' For My Baby" has that immediate get-off-your-ass encouragement, then blends into the lets-just-melt-like-jello lead guitar, rousting me right back on the office floor. "Living The Blues" has a vaudeville-ish sound to these ears. Think Rat Pack and the Doors. This track captures the great harmonies, which surface more as the disc unfolds. "Forever" takes me back to 1976-77 Jefferson Starship. What a dreamy sound Sky King attain on this track. Mellow. Cloudy. Little bit of Bossa Nova to it. The delicate lead, established with what sounds like a 12-string, found me thinking of a slow dance on some Jamaican island.

"Get Along Lost Girl" reminds me of Atlanta Rhythm Section? "I'm Gone" has that old down south sound. I'm picturing a smoky speakeasy with Sky King at the helm and it's smoky. I see lots of smoke. Lots of gangsters with black suits and ladies in white chiffon. I don't often use the word chiffon. "I'm Gone" is that good. "Late Night Phone Call" calls in a little melancholy, alerting the listener to hunker down because the show almost is over. A slow crawl replete with the horn section making their nod. Fuzzy was efficient tempering out a solid bass line, deft percussion keeping everything on time, and Farkas driving the trio with his skillful rhythm.

"Alone" I swear has no comparison. It's original sounding with an evenly shared spotlight... no one over-posering the other, which seems a fitting close to the disc. These guys gel. Morose Tales From The Left Coast is a home run. This isn't one of those discs you "hear about" and are "encouraged" to purchase, only to find the material isn't appealing and you're left with a coaster. This is not one of those discs. Far from it. Every song seems to have been calculated to deliver the listener to the scene - the scene written into the song. How these guys massaged lyrics to tell little stories, weaving them to an unwelcome conclusion (I wanted the disc to be lengthier). I tried to find demerits (Hey, it's my job. I'm a critic. Everybody is.), but could find none. I kept waiting for "that" track that would have me shaking my head with an "I knew it..." mentality. Not this time around. Pick it up. I'd be surprised if you weren't in agreement with me.

~ James P. Shelley

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